The Pyrus Garden

The Year

The Pyrus Garden


Pyrus was established in 2011 by Natalya Ayers and Fiona Inglis with the intention of growing flowers for use in their own artistic practice and events, combined with foraged material from the surrounding landscape and flowers from other specialist British producers. The studio based in Scotland grew steadily and in 2014 they started to think about expanding the vision from their existing location. In the Autumn of 2015 they took over a neglected walled garden and The Garden Edit decided to follow them across their first year of growing there.

  • Walled gardens are hard to find, however a beautiful but neglected 2.5 acre Victorian gem just a few miles away came to our attention and we felt an immediate connection as soon as we stepped through the door. Like many walled spaces it has a contemplative, monastic quality and you leave the world behind when you enter.
    Natalya Ayers and Fiona Inglis

  • So what is the history of the walled garden?
    Saltoun Walled Garden is the historic walled garden of a country estate, built in the Victorian era to house and grow fresh produce for the family and their estate workers. Being so far North the walls were built very high to create a microclimate in the Scottish summers, we can testify that it certainly gets hot in there! The south wall has pipes running through it that were originally heated via a boiler room in the potting sheds, raising the temperature of the brick behind the glasshouses and enabling the gardeners to grow otherwise unthinkable crops such as peaches, citrus and pineapples. We will spend time researching the history of the garden this year and would love to unearth photographic records of the space in its heyday; the layout and design of the glasshouses in particular. One day it is our dream to restore at least part of the glasshouses and return the garden to its full Victorian splendour. In the meantime a friend and expert on historic gardens has advised us to let the garden reveal itself to us, looking for signs of the archaeology of old paths and structures as we gently develop it.

  • The space has been more or less unused for thirty years; one or two individuals have worked the garden but not on a commercial scale or for any period of time. When we took it on last year the weeds were waist height, a thirty years old seed bed and established weeds of almost every kind is daunting but has not deterred us.

  • What have been your first jobs on site?
    The first and most important part of any garden preparation is the ground work so clearing the weeds with a tractor was the first job. Not as easy as it sounds when the small opening in the garden was built to accommodate firstly horses and later on the tiny machines of yesteryear. Once the weeds had been flayed the earth was ploughed, giving us the first real sense of the scale of the garden and the work ahead. We know the weeds will be our biggest challenge and therefore the plan for our first year is to grass seed a large area of the ground and mow it continually to keep the new weedlings under control. We will develop an area for ourselves, the ‘Pyrus’ garden which will also be our research and development HQ; we need to get to know the site and the soil before we commit to large crops and investment.

  • The fruit trees were planted by an old tenant some years ago with the intention to make the space a market garden. Beautiful as they are, they have limited use for our work and have been planted in the best position in the garden against the south wall so they have to go! We used as many fruits as possible last autumn for tablescapes, made apple pies and donated the rest of the crop to the local cider brewery.

  • You will be moving into a new studio space on site – what’s this like?
    Our new studio space is a series of old potting sheds which we have been working hard to renovate over the past few months. Potting sheds were by nature cold, dark and usually damp, not at all the light, bright and airy spaces associated with studios. When we moved in the powdery stone floors were littered with fragments of butterfly wings discarded by the birds that nested in every crevice of the sheds. Listed building consent has meant the process and the methods used have been slowed to a gentle pace; we have installed skylights, painted the crumbling rubble walls with ten coats of traditional limewash and cheered when we switched on an electric light for the first time, it felt like an important milestone in the story of the garden.

    What are your main goals in moving to this challenging, much bigger site?
    From the outset we have been passionate about making British flowers more accessible to the market, micro growers are springing up all the time but often they don’t have enough surplus to sell to other florists, or at least in any quantity. Over the next few years we hope to develop the new space to its full potential, growing special, fragrant and sought after blooms that we can sell to florists locally and throughout Britain. What we really lack in Scotland in particular is a cut flower distribution network; that is an issue we need to address.

  • Beginning a new garden and getting to know the land and what it produces for us will no doubt inform and guide the pieces we make, strengthening the relationship with our surroundings and our understanding of it. If we can restore the garden to its former glory as a productive growing space, become self-sufficient in providing flowers for our own work and successfully farm and distribute specialist cut flowers for other British florists we will have achieved most of what we are setting out to do.